How to sleep better on an uncomfortable mattress – 7 easy hacks

A woman sleeps happily with her arm raised on a comfortable white mattress
(Image credit: Getty)

Knowing how to sleep better on an uncomfortable mattress will do wonders for your sleep quality – which in turn will improve your mood, energy levels, and overall health. But what if the time isn't right for you to bring home a brand new mattress? 

Fortunately, there are some brilliant hacks you can use to boost your in-bed comfort – one of these hacks won't cost a single cent yet it'll go a long way in improving your sleep. Whether your mattress is brand new or you've broken it in after a few years, it’s time to learn how to make it more comfortable. If after reading you decide it’s time for something new, then take a look at our best mattress guide to find your next bed. 

1. Flip or rotate your mattress

Not all mattresses are designed to be flipped, but most can and should be rotated often. Why? Because when you rotate your mattress you spread out wear and tear and sagging (those big dips that form around your back and hips). Knowing how often you should flip or rotate your mattress will help it last as long as possible.

However, if your mattress has zoned support you won’t be able to rotate it, as the wrong zones will then be placed at the wrong end. You’ll need to look at hacks further down this article instead.

A man and a woman rotate their mattress to make it more comfortable to sleep on before placing it back on the bed

(Image credit: Getty)

Some memory foam mattresses can be flipped, but most hybrids can’t be as the base layers are usually much firmer and sturdier, so with that flipped to the top, you’ll feel like you’re sleeping on a plank of wood. 

2. Check your box spring or base

Are you sure it’s your mattress that’s uncomfortable? Sometimes your box spring or base can be the one to blame instead, as the coils inside box springs can weaken over time, causing your mattress to sag prematurely. 

So getting a new box spring or bed base could extend the life of your mattress and save you money on replacing it before its time. Signs of a box spring past its prime include creaking sounds whenever you lie on your bed, any coils poking through, or sagging in the middle. 

Also, double check that you actually need a box spring, as some mattresses can be placed directly on a bed frame instead. And in some cases, using a box spring with a mattress that doesn't require one can void its warranty – so make sure to carefully read the terms of your mattress warranty to see what is or isn't covered.

3. Place your mattress on the floor

If you have a mattress that can be placed directly on the floor, then this is definitely worth trying. It’s a great hack if your mattress is uncomfortable because it’s too soft for your body weight or sleep style, as the floor will naturally add in that firmness you need for better support.

A woman sits on a mattress that has been placed directly onto the floor to make it firmer

(Image credit: Getty)

There are a couple of caveats though: first, check with the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding what the mattress can be placed on. Some are fine with floor use, while others will state that you are blowing the terms of your warranty when you don’t use the mattress with a suitable bed frame or base. (See our last point.)

Secondly, if you have neck or back pain or you have specific mobility requirements, check with your doctor or health practitioner first as sleeping on a mattress on the floor may not be suitable for you. (In fact, you may benefit from an orthopedic mattress instead.)

4. Add a comfortable mattress topper

This is an easy hack for making your mattress more comfortable. When we test the best mattress toppers, we love using them on older beds because then we can see just how much of a difference the right topper can make. 

If your mattress feels uncomfortable because it’s too soft, go for a thicker and firmer mattress topper made from natural materials such as latex, which is tough and hard-wearing, so it will also last longer than cheaper foam toppers. To add softness to a mattress that’s uncomfortably firm, opt for a plush memory foam topper to relieve pressure and pile on the cushioning.

Best of all, mattress toppers are a fraction of the cost of a new mattress so it's an economical way to upgrade, especially if your bed is in otherwise fine condition. You'll find plenty of mattress topper deals for Black Friday, too.

Now, if you don't have to drastically alter the feel of your bed, a mattress pad might be what you need instead. It's also cheaper than buying a mattress topper, since it's thinner and uses less material. Knowing the key differences between a mattress pad vs a mattress topper will help you decide which one you'll need.

5. Minimize mattress sagging 

You can’t fix a sagging mattress completely (unless yours is still under warranty, then you could ask the manufacturer about possible repairs), but you can temporarily reduce the sagging.

A person places a thick white mattress topper onto a mattress to make it more comfortable to sleep on

(Image credit: Amazon)

Again, a topper works wonders to offset sagging, as does rotating your mattress so that any sagging at the top is moved to the bottom where you’ll feel it less.

You could also add pillows in the places where your mattress is sagging the most. For example, one under your hips or back. In this case, choose a pillow that retains its shape well, but keep in mind that this is just a temporary solution. 

So if your sagging is substantial, it’s time for a new mattress instead, as it can ultimately lead to back aches and pains. Take a look through our guide to the best mattresses in a box for inspiration.

6. Invest in a body pillow for instant sleep comfort

Are you a side sleeper struggling to make your mattress more comfortable? Then this one's for you. Body pillows are normally the realm of pregnant people, but they can also be used to make your mattress more comfortable. 

By placing a body pillow between your legs and snoozing on your side, you’ll align your spine properly again – something that goes awry with an uncomfortable mattress – and reduce pressure on your back and hips. This will help mimic the feeling you'd get from sleeping on the best mattress for side sleepers.

7. Switch to more breathable bedding

If your mattress is uncomfortable because it retains too much heat, and you wake up often throughout the night kicking off the covers, then switching to a proper cooling mattress is a smart move that will help you sleep better.

A man in a blue t-shirt sleeps on a cooling pillow

(Image credit: Getty)

In the meantime, combat a too-hot mattress with a cooling bed topper or cooling bedding, such as bamboo sheets. We include a lot of breathable options in our best comforters guide.

A mattress that traps heat and lets it pool beneath you is a recipe for crumby sleep, but if you can cover that mattress with a cooling pad or cooling mattress protector and sheets, you’ll feel a little more comfortable.

How does your mattress affect your sleep?

Your choice of mattress has a direct impact on your quality of sleep. Pick the wrong type for your body weight and sleeping position and you are lining yourself up for an uncomfortable night. 

A mattress that’s too firm for your body will cause pressure points, most commonly around the back, hips and shoulders (and knees for side sleepers). A mattress that’s too soft won’t support you, so you’ll dip too far down into the mattress, throwing your spine out of alignment and causing pain and soreness. 

If you have a new mattress and you’re finding it uncomfortable to sleep on, remember that it takes around three weeks (on average) for your body to get used to a new mattress.  That's why the top online sleep brands include a mattress trial with a 30-night minimum. (The average is 100 nights although some manufacturers offer up to a year to trial it.)

However if you’re past that point and you’re in pain when you wake up, return that mattress as soon as you can. Sometimes you’ll find that the manufacturer may offer you a free comfort upgrade in the form of a pad or topper.

If after trying all of these hacks you still find your mattress is too uncomfortable to sleep on, then it’s time for something new. After all, your body and your sleep are worth it. For extra tips, read our feature on how to choose the right mattress. For some of our favorite models, see below.

Claire Davies
Senior Sleep Editor, Certified Sleep Science Coach

Claire Davies is Tom's Guide's mattress expert and main sleep product tester with over 15 years' product review experience, and she is responsible for all mattress and sleep coverage on the site. A qualified journalist, Sleep Editor and Certified Sleep Science Coach, Claire writes about all things related to sleep, from mattress reviews to the latest sleep techniques and research. Claire has interviewed a wealth of experts, from mattress designers and innovators to neuroscientists and doctors of sleep medicine. Before taking on the role of Sleep Editor, Claire worked as Health & Wellness Editor at Top Ten Reviews, and before that was a Senior Content Editor at T3. Claire is super-passionate about how consistent, good quality sleep can boost our physical and mental wellbeing, and would love to hear from PRs and brands regarding sleep products, services and research that can help our readers sleep better than ever. 

With contributions from